Local job growth and tax diversification got a boost last week thanks to The Villages.

The Sumter County Commission approved a rezoning application that would allow up to 1.75 million square feet of industrial-commercial space on a 431-acre site within the county’s Florida Crossroads Industrial Activity Center south of Wildwood and east of Interstate 75.

It’s the first sign of true growth within this 4,000-acre growth corridor that county officials think could add up to 20,000 new jobs over the next 10 years or so.

The Villages industrial property alone could generate from 1,900 to 2,200 jobs, according to research used by organizations such as the National Association of Industrial Office Properties and the federal Energy Information Administration to calculate jobs per square foot.

“It’s strategically positioned,” County Commissioner Doug Gilpin said about The Villages industrial-commercial property. “Once developed, it will attract a tremendous number of high-paying, quality jobs to Sumter County.”

Job growth isn’t the only benefit, either.

It contributes to the diversification of the tax base, an attractive incentive for a county commission that proposed a reduction in the 2018-19 property tax rate. Pending a final public hearing in September, it will be the 14th consecutive year the commission has adopted a tax rate at or below the rolled-back rate, the state’s definition of what constitutes a tax cut.

Consequently, industrial-commercial growth could influence the commission’s decision whether to consider future tax cuts, since the sector contributes more to the tax base than residential, Gilpin said.

“When you get industry to participate, it keeps residential taxes low,” he said.

Also: The expansion into industrial-commercial didn’t diminish The Villages’ home-building mission. It moved one step closer last week to rezoning 5,664 acres of under-used and undeveloped agricultural land it purchased earlier this year south of State Road 44 in the Southern Oaks region. The Wildwood City Commission heard a first reading of an ordinance that proposes a zoning map amendment on that acreage for multi-use, age-restricted development. The property includes two noncontiguous areas. One is roughly located south of Florida’s Turnpike and east of U.S. Highway 301 near what will become Village De Luna. The second and larger piece of property is several miles south of Warm Springs Avenue, formerly County Road 468, east of CR 501 and west of Florida’s Turnpike and then south of CR 470. The commission is scheduled to vote on the ordinance at its Aug. 27 meeting.

Also: The Villages filed permits to begin mass grading of a new 450-acre village about one-half mile south of Warm Springs Avenue and one-quarter mile northeast of the turnpike and then to the south and abutting the previously named Village of Bradford. Once approved, the permit would allow construction of a master stormwater management system to serve the community. The master plan for this unnamed community proposes up to 1,400 residential units. Wildwood’s special magistrate, W. Grant Watson, recently found sufficiency in the Developer’s site plan application and referred it to the city commission for consideration at an upcoming public hearing.

Also: It bears repeating that home values remain on a solid upward climb within The Villages metropolitan statistical area, irrespective of the growth, according to new data recently released by CoreLogic, the Irvine, California-based real estate data and analytics firm. Year-over-year single-family home values increased by 5.4 percent in June, according to this company that supports the S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller national home price index. That’s three-tenths of a percent above the readjusted 5.1 percent increase reported for May home values in The Villages MSA. The researchers also reaffirmed in the June data their ongoing conclusion that The Villages MSA is the healthiest residential market in Florida. It is the only MSA in the state classified as “normal,” a market where all levels of property are considered neither undervalued or overvalued.

Also: One other Irvine-based provider of property data reaffirmed the residential strength of The Villages MSA in an analysis of homes with a mortgage. Researchers at ATTOM Data Solutions found that The Villages MSA has a higher percentage of equity-rich properties than the Florida average of 23.7 percent. In ZIP code 32162, about 28.1 percent of all properties were classified as equity rich; 26.3 percent in ZIP code 32159 and 23.8 percent in ZIP code 32163.

Also: Another provider of real estate data found similar strength in The Villages MSA. New York-based SmartAsset ranked Sumter County and The Villages as the No. 1 county in the state where a homeowner was likely to be approved for a mortgage. It ranked Sumter with a loan funding rate of 63.59 percent, compared with Santa Rosa, 62.37 percent; St. Johns, 62.29 percent; Manatee, 61.35 percent; and Okaloosa, 60.53 percent. Also in the top 10, the researchers listed Lake County as having a 59.74 percent loan funding rate.

David R. Corder is a senior writer with The Villages Daily Sun. He can be reached at 352-753-1119, ext. 5241, or david.corder@thevillagesmedia.com.